The degree to which one is either happy or discontent with life usually depends upon that person’s level of expectations. If one expects to achieve lofty goals but falls noticeably short, he or she will likely be quite miserable throughout their existence on this planet. Conversely, contentment and peace of mind is often achieved when one lowers his or her expectations to a level that’s within their power to attain. If you doubt me on this, consider the following. Since the end of WWII, four of the greatest American celebrity pop-culture icons self-imploded at a fairly young age. Each individual had achieved vast wealth and fame, with millions upon millions of adoring world-wide fans. Stuff that most ordinary people wouldn’t even allow themselves to dream of. And yet all of that was not enough, as each of the four self-destructed.
I’m talking, of course, about Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. Elvis, often called the King of Rock&Roll, just could not cope with all his world-wide successes. He began overeating and became fat, and finally did himself in with pills, (either uppers or downers) in 1977, at the ripe old-age of 42. Marilyn Monroe, blonde bombshell, sex-goddess, adored by millions, went from one failed marriage to another, and finally became unhireable by the movie studios because of her temper tantrums and erratic behavior. The fact that she had slept with a sitting President and his brother, the Attorney-General, apparently didn’t seem to impress her. She made it all the way to age 36, before overdosing on barbiturates. Michael Jackson, often called the greatest pop entertainer of all time, nevertheless, could not get to sleep at night without the infusion of powerful drugs. One night, those drugs did him in at age 51. And Whitney Houston allowed her immense talent to dribble away because of bad relationships and drug abuse. She bit the dust in 2012 at age 49.
These upper-tier celebrity self-implosions were, by no means the end of it. Other recent famous suicides include Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, two men who also seemed to have it all. So why would these famous stars, who appeared to have everything this world could possibly offer, kill themselves while the rest of us plow on through the daily grind and chaos of living. I would submit it’s because of the mismatch of expectations versus reality. When life’s expectations become so stratospherically unattainable no matter what one may have achieved, suicide often becomes the logical end-game. Consider, in contrast, the poor sugar-cane farmer in Brazil, who ekes out a barely sustainable living from selling the crops he harvests on his small farm acreage. He does back-breaking work in the fields for little pay; but it’s enough to put a roof over his family’s heads, and food on the table. At the end of the day he cherishes the small amount of leisure time afforded him, and sleeps soundly without the need for drugs. He has no expectations of vast wealth or glamour or fame, but is happy to be able to provide the bare essentials for himself his family. I guarantee that you will never read about him committing suicide.
I bring all this up because of the supposed unhappiness of the American electorate at this point in history. Poll after poll shows a large majority of Americans as being unhappy with the course of events materializing in the U.S. these days. And not just unhappy; but often angry or furious. According to these polls, most Americans believe that the country’s best days are behind us, and that the U.S. is on a downward spiral in both its economy and in foreign affairs. According to them, the economy is flat or stagnant and the average citizen is being screwed over by bankers, hedge fund managers and other Wall Street sharpies. In foreign affairs, Islamic-Jihadist terrorists are the new barbarians at the gates chipping away at Western society, the way that the Huns and Vandals chipped away at the Roman Empire and eventually brought it to its knees. Young people supposedly believe that their lives will never be as good as what their parents achieved. To some extent these feelings are valid, but are being considerably overplayed unscrupulous politicians.
As proof we only have to go back seven short years to early 2009. The economy had just tanked, and the unemployment rate had skyrocketed to well over 10 percent. Today it stands at just under 5 percent. Everyone that owned their home seemed to have a mortgage that was “under water,” i.e. the value of their houses were less than the mortgage amount. Even if they were able to sell their houses, the proceeds would not be enough to pay off the bank loan. People were just walking away from their homes leaving the banks to hold worthless mortgage paper, as if such paper was a rotting fish. Today, one never hears the term “mortgages under water” anymore as both the economy and real estate values have stabilized. Yes, wages have been stagnant, but so is inflation. And the sharp reduction in gasoline prices we’ve been experiencing recently is equivalent to huge tax reduction for people that drive, which is most everyone. The more one drives, the bigger the savings. On an inflation adjusted basis, gas is now cheaper than it was in the late 1950s, when I first received my license.
On the foreign front, the Islamic Jihadists do have the ability to make international headlines through random acts of barbaric terror. While these acts can be alarming or terrifying, there is virtually no threat or scenario under which Western civilization, as we know it, will be destroyed by the Jihadists. Rather, once the West increases its military operations and pressure, it will likely be the terrorist organizations that will face demise. So I guess the moral of the story is that don’t let unscrupulous and demagogic politicians running for office play mind games with your head. I won’t mention names in this piece, but you know who they are.
The U.S. and Western civilization is not falling apart, but is actually, to a large degree, thriving. The U.S. economy is not great, but it’s definitely on the upswing. Civilized forces will eventually destroy the terrorist barbarians. Keep your expectations level-headed, and eventually the forces of good will come out on top.